DURHAM, N.C..- The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, presents the exhibition, El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III, the first comprehensive exhibition of art made for this Spanish court four centuries ago. Among the works of two giants of Spanish art, the show will introduce great unknown masters of painting and sculpture. El Greco to Velázquez will be on view at the Nasher Museum from August 21 through November 9, 2008.
The exhibition includes 52 master paintings, including seven late works by El Greco, three early works by Velázquez and works by their contemporaries, lesser known but talented artists. El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III, the largest-ever assemblage of international loans of Spanish art in the Southeast, includes monumental altar pieces, life-sized portraits, some of the earliest still-life paintings in Europe, full-length carved and painted wooden sculptures of Spanish saints and more than 50 pieces of period glass and ceramics. Many works are traveling to this country for the first time from major museums, some from the churches for which they were originally commissioned.
El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III is sponsored at the Nasher Museum and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, by Bank of America. The exhibition is based on 20 years of research by Sarah Schroth, the Nancy Hanks Senior Curator at the Nasher Museum, and is co-curated by Schroth and Ronni Baer, the William and Ann Elfers Senior Curator of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III sheds light on two of the greatest painters in history. Their work, and that of overlooked painters among them Juan Sánchez Cotán, Gregorio Fernández, Juan Bautista Maino and Luis Tristán formed the foundation for the Spanish Golden Age. The show brings to life the little-known period of 23 years (1598-1621) when Philip III ruled Spain, and when Spain dominated the world with holdings greater than the Roman Empire. This period of Spanish history with its pageantry, religious passion, art patronage, political intrigue and literary accomplishments rivals the eras of Elizabethan England and France under Louis XIV.
The Nasher Museum is proud to announce an old master exhibition that is perhaps the most important of its kind ever shown in the southeast United States, said Kimerly Rorschach, the Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum. This internationally significant exhibition provides an unprecedented opportunity to set the record straight on a fascinating chapter of European art history.
The exhibition gathers together the best examples of painting and sculpture made between 1598 and 1621. Works included in the exhibition represent important national and international loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid; the Musée des Beaux Arts in Strasbourg, France; the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna; the National Gallery in London and others. The majority of the works on loan have never traveled abroad; some are drawn from private collections and churches in Spain for which the pieces were originally commissioned.
This exhibition is a 20-year dream come true, said Sarah Schroth, co-curator of the exhibition. We have gathered the best masterpieces by artists working during the reign of Philip III, whose careers, like that of the king, I hope to restore to their proper place in history. I know visitors will be surprised at the enormous talent of these rediscovered artists and will enjoy learning about the beginnings of the Golden Age of Spain.
This exhibition examines the epoch of Philip III through a new lens. Schroth discovered 13 inventories of the paintings and goods of the kings favorite, Francisco Gómez de Sandoval y Rojas, the Duke of Lerma, a discovery that has put to rest the standard view of Spain as a cultural backwater during Philip IIIs reign. These documents indicate that Lerma was the first mega-collector in Europe, amassing an extraordinary collection of more than 2,000 paintings. Among them was the monumental Equestrian Portrait of the Duke of Lerma (1603, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid), which is in the exhibition, that the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens painted while on a diplomatic mission to the Spanish court. The inventories also mention nearly 900 pieces of luxury glass, porcelain, ceramics and redware that Lerma arranged in a camarín, or little room, which will be evocatively reconstructed for the exhibition.
Cultural institutions in the surrounding Research Triangle region are planning programs and events to complement the exhibition. Highlights include a newly choreographed Don Quixote by the Carolina Ballet, a commissioned work by renowned modern composer and Duke professor Stephen Jaffe for the North Carolina Symphony, a concert of period music with viola da gamba performer Jordi Savall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hills Memorial Hall and a performance by the renowned British choral group the Tallis Scholars sponsored by Duke Performances. The statewide public television station UNC-TV is producing a 30-minute documentary about the exhibition with live footage from Spain that will air numerous times throughout North Carolina. Restaurants are planning tapas menus and wine-tasting events and hotels are offering packages to out-of-town visitors.